Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Amazing Help

We have been putting the not-quite-final touches on Connection Point this week.  We are very excited about having our first worship celebration there this Sunday.  Everyone has shown up to help with the process.

Last Sunday it was amazing to watch as we took down and packed up all our stuff from the Longhouse.  I don't think anyone left without helping in some way.  Even without anyone calling the shots, every piece of furniture and every piece of hardware was quickly loaded on trucks and trailers.  Then the building got clean.  I'm not even sure who did it.  It happened so fast, probably while I was in the crawl space untangling cables.

The same crew came to Connection Point, not just to deliver, but to work.  We got the construction dust thoroughly removed, installed some ceiling tiles and began to organize our stuff in our new space.

This week I have seen lots of people at CP, doing whatever needs to be done.  It is amazing help, and I really believe it is inspired by the Holy Spirit.

It will be exciting to celebrate the Resurrection this Sunday!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Maybe Marx was right

Karl Marx said that capitalism is a step along the way to socialism.  This is a very uncomfortable thought to me, I must confess.  To gain some perspective, it helps to look at a little history.

In the late 1700s, there was a lot of dialogue about what makes a good government.  John Locke (1638-1715) and French enlightenment philosopher Montesquieu (1689-1755) advocated the separation of powers in government.  Our constitutional form of government was forged during this era of philosophical/political thought.  Government should be limited, they believed, and this is clearly expressed in the the Tenth Amendment of our Constitution:  "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited to it by the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."  In other words, the powers given by the Constitution are the only powers the federal government can have.  This provides for most laws to be determined by individual states.

Thus our Founders put together a system of government, based on the prevailing wisdom of the day, and began the great experiment in government known as the United States of America.  It was based on the belief that liberty is a gift from the Creator and not to be taken away by any government.  With that freedom comes the right to free enterprise, or freedom to carry on commerce with limited interference.  We also know this system as capitalism.  The wisdom of this experiment can be seen with over 200 years of freedom and unprecedented prosperity.

But there is a problem with capitalism.  The owners of the means of production can become selfish.  They can begin to seek only profit, while taking advantage of the workers.  Think of history's sweatshops and factories relying on child labor.  Marx (1818-1883) said that these conditions are a necessary by-product of capitalism, and that the workers will eventually push for a more "fair" distribution of profits and ownership.  This has happened in Eastern Europe through bloody revolutions, and has happened in Western Europe through democratic reforms leading to socialism.  Most of Europe is now socialist.

But things have not (yet) gone that way in the U.S.

Scottish moral philosopher Adam Smith (1723-1790) in his book called The Wealth of Nations, describes the process of free enterprise as a self-regulating system.  The marketplace rewards innovation and quality, while punishing poor systems and low quality.  The marketplace takes care of this as people buy good products and services and don't buy the bad stuff.  Good businesses prosper, bad businesses go broke.

For this system to work, however, Smith notes that the culture must have a moral foundation.  Entrepreneurs must be motivated by more than pure financial profit.  They must also seek to benefit society through their businesses:  they provide valuable goods and services, they provide jobs for their employees, and they also feed their own families (that is, they earn a profit).

The U.S. was begun with a uniquely moral foundation, based upon the Christian beliefs of many who settled here from Europe.  Historically, our nation has experienced numerous "awakenings," in which great numbers of people have surrendered to Christ.  This moral foundation has served as a check against raw capitalism.  It was the moral outcry that shut down the sweatshops and led to laws against child labor, for example.

So the United States experienced favorable conditions for prosperity:  freedom and morality.  The freedom was granted by the Founders who created a form of government and trade based on liberty.  The morality was the inheritance of the early settlers who sought freedom of religion.  Of course neither our commerce nor our morality has been perfect.  There have been many failures in both areas.  But the free market, based upon morality, has arguably produced the greatest nation in world history.

But when the Church fails to share the gospel, problems develop.  Capitalists forget that there is  a higher value than profit.  The poor become neglected as the church lets government feed the needy.  The social unrest creates the conditions that Marx describes.  The masses come to prefer the security of a strong government to the freedoms which made our country great.

So, where will we go from here?  If we rely on the prevailing philosophical/political thoughts of today, then we will clearly head toward socialism.  That's where Europe has gone.  I do not believe that the European Union can begin to match the greatness of our country.  Marx seems to have ignored the corruption that comes with power.  The Soviet Union collapsed, in part, because of the corruption of its leaders.  Notably, one other contributing factor in the fall of the U.S.S.R. was the rise of the Church behind the Iron Curtain.

We can return to the political structures of our Constitution, but the freedoms granted there will only go so far without a rise in our national sense of morality.  That's a job for the Spirit of God to be carried out through his people, the Church.  Jesus changes hearts and lives.  We need another awakening.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Get 'er done, on taxes

I've got less than a month to get my taxes done, so I'm finally buckling down to do it.  Every year I promise myself that I will do the taxes in Feb.  Then something comes up.  So I promise that I'll do them by March 15, still way early.  I missed that again this year, so I'm setting my sights on getting them done before April 1. 

It might actually happen.  I sat myself down tonight and began plowing through it.  Got a good start on it all, and it's not as bad as I thought it might be.

Speaking of procrastination, there is still something I need to blog about -- David Allen in Getting Things Done explains why only smart people procrastinate.  One of these days I'll write about it.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Winding Down and Gearing Up

Moving is never easy, and it always helps to have a plan.  We are coming along with the construction of Connection Point, and we'll begin taking things out of the Longhouse this week.  There will be a wedding at the LH this weekend, so we have to get our band equipment out anyway.

The video projector and its cables need to come off the LH ceiling and out from under the building.  We will be winding up the various cables and storing them until we are ready to install them in Connection Point. 

It looks like we will have a couple of Sundays without our sound system and without video projection.  Then we should be ready on April 4 for our Easter service at Connection Point.  I hope we can have a rough schedule of the process in the bulletin this Sunday.

Thanks to all the people who helped us clean and dream at CP yesterday.  The youth group and several parents came and cleaned up.  Meanwhile others were imagining how we will work the staging, sound and video set up.

We are winding down at the Longhouse and gearing up for a new era of ministry at Connection Point.  Thank you, Jesus, for making it happen!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Nomads or Warriors?

Reading Numbers 3 this morning, I saw a portable worship set up.  The Levites were the ones who took care of the worship equipment and set up, moving it all from place to place.

I had never noticed that their work was similar to what portable churches do today.  Some of the Levites carried tent poles, some the curtains, others the utensils.  They had to move the tabernacle around in the desert, following the Pillar of Cloud/Fire.  Now, they would set up for up to months at a time, not setting up and taking down every week.  But the similarities are there.  Eventually, after 40 years, they entered the Promised Land, and the real battles began.

For years Crossroads has been a nomadic people in Stokesdale.  We have met in 9 places:  houses, school facilities, a nursing home, borrowed church buildings.  Now it seems like we are entering the Promised Land.  We have bought a building, and we are completing the construction now to make it an assembly space. 

I wonder, though, if the battles are just now beginning.  We soon will have much more opportunity for ministry.  We will be able to share the love of Jesus with our community much better, with a place of outreach and ministry.

But when Israel went into the Promised Land, they had to fight for it.  We have gone through the requisite red tape, but there are certainly spiritual battles ahead.  As we work aggressively to build the kingdom of God, there will be spiritual opposition. 

We need to pray for God's leadership, so that his Spirit will guide us and bring us success.  The battle is the Lord's.  We need to remember that and stay on our knees.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Connection Point construction underway

After months of jumping through hoops, we are finally getting our new building ready to use!  Materials were delivered yesterday, and crews began work today.  We owe a special word of thanks to the men in our church who have been doing all the behind-the-scenes work.  From site plans to parking arrangements to blue prints, it is a complicated process.  At least it seems complicated to me. 

But now we are moving forward.  It is a good thing, too.  We need to be moved out of the Longhouse by April 1, so we have only a few more weeks to work with.  God has provided exactly what we need at just the right time. 

The possiblities of the new facility are exciting.  This will be a place of ministry to the whole community, and just a tool for building the kingdom of God.  I look forward to seeing many lives transformed through the connections made at Connection Point.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Screen saver

Yes, I do love snow.  This is the perfect kind.  It is falling for hours, sticking a little to the ground, and we're not getting snowed in.  Perfect.  It also doesn't seem like it will mess up too many scheduled events.  And the power hasn't gone out.

I watched it snow tonight for hours, just relaxing while staring into the backyard.  The flood lights turn it into a show.  It is better than a screen saver -- unpredictable, flowing, changing, peaceful.

Thank you, Jesus, for making your creation beautiful, and for sharing it with us.